Part 2 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Audiobook by Mark Twain (Chs 11-24)


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Transcript:
Chapter XI CLOSE upon the hour of noon the whole
village was suddenly electrified with the ghastly news.
No need of the as yet undreamed-of telegraph; the tale flew from man to man,
from group to group, from house to house, with little less than telegraphic speed.
Of course the schoolmaster gave holiday for that afternoon; the town would have
thought strangely of him if he had not.
A gory knife had been found close to the murdered man, and it had been recognized
by somebody as belonging to Muff Potter-- so the story ran.
And it was said that a belated citizen had come upon Potter washing himself in the
"branch" about one or two o'clock in the morning, and that Potter had at once
sneaked off--suspicious circumstances,
especially the washing which was not a habit with Potter.
It was also said that the town had been ransacked for this "murderer" (the public
are not slow in the matter of sifting evidence and arriving at a verdict), but
that he could not be found.
Horsemen had departed down all the roads in every direction, and the Sheriff "was
confident" that he would be captured before night.
All the town was drifting toward the graveyard.
Tom's heartbreak vanished and he joined the procession, not because he would not a
thousand times rather go anywhere else, but because an awful, unaccountable
fascination drew him on.
Arrived at the dreadful place, he wormed his small body through the crowd and saw
the dismal spectacle. It seemed to him an age since he was there
before.
Somebody pinched his arm. He turned, and his eyes met Huckleberry's.
Then both looked elsewhere at once, and wondered if anybody had noticed anything
in their mutual glance.
But everybody was talking, and intent upon the grisly spectacle before them.
"Poor fellow!" "Poor young fellow!"
"This ought to be a lesson to grave robbers!"
"Muff Potter'll hang for this if they catch him!"
This was the drift of remark; and the minister said, "It was a judgment; His
hand is here."
Now Tom shivered from head to heel; for his eye fell upon the stolid face of Injun
Joe. At this moment the crowd began to sway and
struggle, and voices shouted, "It's him!
it's him! he's coming himself!"
"Who? Who?"
from twenty voices.
"Muff Potter!" "Hallo, he's stopped!--Look out, he's
turning! Don't let him get away!"
People in the branches of the trees over Tom's head said he wasn't trying to get
away--he only looked doubtful and perplexed.
"Infernal impudence!"
said a bystander; "wanted to come and take a quiet look at his work, I reckon--didn't
expect any company."
The crowd fell apart, now, and the Sheriff came through, ostentatiously leading
Potter by the arm.
The poor fellow's face was haggard, and his eyes showed the fear that was upon
him.
When he stood before the murdered man, he shook as with a palsy, and he put his face
in his hands and burst into tears. "I didn't do it, friends," he sobbed;
"'pon my word and honor I never done it."
"Who's accused you?" shouted a voice.
This shot seemed to carry home.
Potter lifted his face and looked around him with a pathetic hopelessness in his
eyes. He saw Injun Joe, and exclaimed:
"Oh, Injun Joe, you promised me you'd never--"
"Is that your knife?" and it was thrust before him by the
Sheriff.
Potter would have fallen if they had not caught him and eased him to the ground.
Then he said:
"Something told me 't if I didn't come back and get--" He shuddered; then waved
his nerveless hand with a vanquished gesture and said, "Tell 'em, Joe, tell
'em--it ain't any use any more."
Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring, and heard the stony-hearted liar
reel off his serene statement, they expecting every moment that the clear sky
would deliver God's lightnings upon his
head, and wondering to see how long the stroke was delayed.
And when he had finished and still stood alive and whole, their wavering impulse to
break their oath and save the poor betrayed prisoner's life faded and
vanished away, for plainly this miscreant
had sold himself to Satan and it would be fatal to meddle with the property of such
a power as that. "Why didn't you leave?
What did you want to come here for?"
somebody said. "I couldn't help it--I couldn't help it,"
Potter moaned. "I wanted to run away, but I couldn't seem
to come anywhere but here."
And he fell to sobbing again.
Injun Joe repeated his statement, just as calmly, a few minutes afterward on the
inquest, under oath; and the boys, seeing that the lightnings were still withheld,
were confirmed in their belief that Joe had sold himself to the devil.
He was now become, to them, the most balefully interesting object they had ever
looked upon, and they could not take their fascinated eyes from his face.
They inwardly resolved to watch him nights, when opportunity should offer, in
the hope of getting a glimpse of his dread master.
Injun Joe helped to raise the body of the murdered man and put it in a wagon for
removal; and it was whispered through the shuddering crowd that the wound bled a
little!
The boys thought that this happy circumstance would turn suspicion in the
right direction; but they were disappointed, for more than one villager
remarked:
"It was within three feet of Muff Potter when it done it."
Tom's fearful secret and gnawing conscience disturbed his sleep for as much
as a week after this; and at breakfast one morning Sid said:
"Tom, you pitch around and talk in your sleep so much that you keep me awake half
the time." Tom blanched and dropped his eyes.
"It's a bad sign," said Aunt Polly, gravely.
"What you got on your mind, Tom?" "Nothing.
Nothing 't I know of."
But the boy's hand shook so that he spilled his coffee.
"And you do talk such stuff," Sid said.
"Last night you said, 'It's blood, it's blood, that's what it is!' You said that
over and over. And you said, 'Don't torment me so--I'll
tell!' Tell WHAT?
What is it you'll tell?" Everything was swimming before Tom.
There is no telling what might have happened, now, but luckily the concern
passed out of Aunt Polly's face and she came to Tom's relief without knowing it.
She said:
"Sho! It's that dreadful murder.
I dream about it most every night myself. Sometimes I dream it's me that done it."
Mary said she had been affected much the same way.
Sid seemed satisfied.
Tom got out of the presence as quick as he plausibly could, and after that he
complained of toothache for a week, and tied up his jaws every night.
He never knew that Sid lay nightly watching, and frequently slipped the
bandage free and then leaned on his elbow listening a good while at a time, and
afterward slipped the bandage back to its place again.
Tom's distress of mind wore off gradually and the toothache grew irksome and was
discarded.
If Sid really managed to make anything out of Tom's disjointed mutterings, he kept it
to himself.
It seemed to Tom that his schoolmates never would get done holding inquests on
dead cats, and thus keeping his trouble present to his mind.
Sid noticed that Tom never was coroner at one of these inquiries, though it had been
his habit to take the lead in all new enterprises; he noticed, too, that Tom
never acted as a witness--and that was
strange; and Sid did not overlook the fact that Tom even showed a marked aversion to
these inquests, and always avoided them when he could.
Sid marvelled, but said nothing.
However, even inquests went out of vogue at last, and ceased to torture Tom's
conscience.
Every day or two, during this time of sorrow, Tom watched his opportunity and
went to the little grated jail-window and smuggled such small comforts through to
the "murderer" as he could get hold of.
The jail was a trifling little brick den that stood in a marsh at the edge of the
village, and no guards were afforded for it; indeed, it was seldom occupied.
These offerings greatly helped to ease Tom's conscience.
The villagers had a strong desire to tar- and-feather Injun Joe and ride him on a
rail, for body-snatching, but so formidable was his character that nobody
could be found who was willing to take the lead in the matter, so it was dropped.
He had been careful to begin both of his inquest-statements with the fight, without
confessing the grave-robbery that preceded it; therefore it was deemed wisest not to
try the case in the courts at present.
>
Chapter XII ONE of the reasons why Tom's mind had
drifted away from its secret troubles was, that it had found a new and weighty matter
to interest itself about.
Becky Thatcher had stopped coming to school.
Tom had struggled with his pride a few days, and tried to "whistle her down the
wind," but failed.
He began to find himself hanging around her father's house, nights, and feeling
very miserable. She was ill.
What if she should die!
There was distraction in the thought. He no longer took an interest in war, nor
even in piracy. The charm of life was gone; there was
nothing but dreariness left.
He put his hoop away, and his bat; there was no joy in them any more.
His aunt was concerned. She began to try all manner of remedies on
him.
She was one of those people who are infatuated with patent medicines and all
new-fangled methods of producing health or mending it.
She was an inveterate experimenter in these things.
When something fresh in this line came out she was in a fever, right away, to try it;
not on herself, for she was never ailing, but on anybody else that came handy.
She was a subscriber for all the "Health" periodicals and phrenological frauds; and
the solemn ignorance they were inflated with was breath to her nostrils.
All the "rot" they contained about ventilation, and how to go to bed, and how
to get up, and what to eat, and what to drink, and how much exercise to take, and
what frame of mind to keep one's self in,
and what sort of clothing to wear, was all gospel to her, and she never observed that
her health-journals of the current month customarily upset everything they had
recommended the month before.
She was as simple-hearted and honest as the day was long, and so she was an easy
victim.
She gathered together her quack periodicals and her quack medicines, and
thus armed with death, went about on her pale horse, metaphorically speaking, with
"hell following after."
But she never suspected that she was not an angel of healing and the balm of Gilead
in disguise, to the suffering neighbors. The water treatment was new, now, and
Tom's low condition was a windfall to her.
She had him out at daylight every morning, stood him up in the woodshed and drowned
him with a deluge of cold water; then she scrubbed him down with a towel like a
file, and so brought him to; then she
rolled him up in a wet sheet and put him away under blankets till she sweated his
soul clean and "the yellow stains of it came through his pores"--as Tom said.
Yet notwithstanding all this, the boy grew more and more melancholy and pale and
dejected. She added hot baths, sitz baths, shower
baths, and plunges.
The boy remained as dismal as a hearse. She began to assist the water with a slim
oatmeal diet and blister-plasters.
She calculated his capacity as she would a jug's, and filled him up every day with
quack cure-alls. Tom had become indifferent to persecution
by this time.
This phase filled the old lady's heart with consternation.
This indifference must be broken up at any cost.
Now she heard of Pain-killer for the first time.
She ordered a lot at once. She tasted it and was filled with
gratitude.
It was simply fire in a liquid form. She dropped the water treatment and
everything else, and pinned her faith to Pain-killer.
She gave Tom a teaspoonful and watched with the deepest anxiety for the result.
Her troubles were instantly at rest, her soul at peace again; for the
"indifference" was broken up.
The boy could not have shown a wilder, heartier interest, if she had built a fire
under him.
Tom felt that it was time to wake up; this sort of life might be romantic enough, in
his blighted condition, but it was getting to have too little sentiment and too much
distracting variety about it.
So he thought over various plans for relief, and finally hit pon that of
professing to be fond of Pain-killer.
He asked for it so often that he became a nuisance, and his aunt ended by telling
him to help himself and quit bothering her.
If it had been Sid, she would have had no misgivings to alloy her delight; but since
it was Tom, she watched the bottle clandestinely.
She found that the medicine did really diminish, but it did not occur to her that
the boy was mending the health of a crack in the sitting-room floor with it.
One day Tom was in the act of dosing the crack when his aunt's yellow cat came
along, purring, eying the teaspoon avariciously, and begging for a taste.
Tom said:
"Don't ask for it unless you want it, Peter."
But Peter signified that he did want it. "You better make sure."
Peter was sure.
"Now you've asked for it, and I'll give it to you, because there ain't anything mean
about me; but if you find you don't like it, you mustn't blame anybody but your own
self."
Peter was agreeable. So Tom pried his mouth open and poured
down the Pain-killer.
Peter sprang a couple of yards in the air, and then delivered a war-whoop and set off
round and round the room, banging against furniture, upsetting flower-pots, and
making general havoc.
Next he rose on his hind feet and pranced around, in a frenzy of enjoyment, with his
head over his shoulder and his voice proclaiming his unappeasable happiness.
Then he went tearing around the house again spreading chaos and destruction in
his path.
Aunt Polly entered in time to see him throw a few double summersets, deliver a
final mighty hurrah, and sail through the open window, carrying the rest of the
flower-pots with him.
The old lady stood petrified with astonishment, peering over her glasses;
Tom lay on the floor expiring with laughter.
"Tom, what on earth ails that cat?"
"I don't know, aunt," gasped the boy. "Why, I never see anything like it.
What did make him act so?"
"Deed I don't know, Aunt Polly; cats always act so when they're having a good
time." "They do, do they?"
There was something in the tone that made Tom apprehensive.
"Yes'm. That is, I believe they do."
"You DO?"
"Yes'm." The old lady was bending down, Tom
watching, with interest emphasized by anxiety.
Too late he divined her "drift."
The handle of the telltale teaspoon was visible under the bed-valance.
Aunt Polly took it, held it up. Tom winced, and dropped his eyes.
Aunt Polly raised him by the usual handle- -his ear--and cracked his head soundly
with her thimble. "Now, sir, what did you want to treat that
poor dumb beast so, for?"
"I done it out of pity for him--because he hadn't any aunt."
"Hadn't any aunt!--you numskull. What has that got to do with it?"
"Heaps.
Because if he'd had one she'd a burnt him out herself!
She'd a roasted his bowels out of him 'thout any more feeling than if he was a
human!"
Aunt Polly felt a sudden pang of remorse. This was putting the thing in a new light;
what was cruelty to a cat MIGHT be cruelty to a boy, too.
She began to soften; she felt sorry.
Her eyes watered a little, and she put her hand on Tom's head and said gently:
"I was meaning for the best, Tom. And, Tom, it DID do you good."
Tom looked up in her face with just a perceptible twinkle peeping through his
gravity. "I know you was meaning for the best,
aunty, and so was I with Peter.
It done HIM good, too. I never see him get around so since--"
"Oh, go 'long with you, Tom, before you aggravate me again.
And you try and see if you can't be a good boy, for once, and you needn't take any
more medicine." Tom reached school ahead of time.
It was noticed that this strange thing had been occurring every day latterly.
And now, as usual of late, he hung about the gate of the schoolyard instead of
playing with his comrades.
He was sick, he said, and he looked it. He tried to seem to be looking everywhere
but whither he really was looking--down the road.
Presently Jeff Thatcher hove in sight, and Tom's face lighted; he gazed a moment, and
then turned sorrowfully away.
When Jeff arrived, Tom accosted him; and "led up" warily to opportunities for
remark about Becky, but the giddy lad never could see the bait.
Tom watched and watched, hoping whenever a frisking frock came in sight, and hating
the owner of it as soon as he saw she was not the right one.
At last frocks ceased to appear, and he dropped hopelessly into the dumps; he
entered the empty schoolhouse and sat down to suffer.
Then one more frock passed in at the gate, and Tom's heart gave a great bound.
The next instant he was out, and "going on" like an Indian; yelling, laughing,
chasing boys, jumping over the fence at risk of life and limb, throwing
handsprings, standing on his head--doing
all the heroic things he could conceive of, and keeping a furtive eye out, all the
while, to see if Becky Thatcher was noticing.
But she seemed to be unconscious of it all; she never looked.
Could it be possible that she was not aware that he was there?
He carried his exploits to her immediate vicinity; came war-whooping around,
snatched a boy's cap, hurled it to the roof of the schoolhouse, broke through a
group of boys, tumbling them in every
direction, and fell sprawling, himself, under Becky's nose, almost upsetting her--
and she turned, with her nose in the air, and he heard her say: "Mf!
some people think they're mighty smart-- always showing off!"
Tom's cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off,
crushed and crestfallen.
>
Chapter XIII TOM'S mind was made up now.
He was gloomy and desperate.
He was a forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found
out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he had tried to do
right and get along, but they would not
let him; since nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let
them blame HIM for the consequences--why shouldn't they?
What right had the friendless to complain?
Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he would lead a life of crime.
There was no choice.
By this time he was far down Meadow Lane, and the bell for school to "take up"
tinkled faintly upon his ear.
He sobbed, now, to think he should never, never hear that old familiar sound any
more--it was very hard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out into the
cold world, he must submit--but he forgave them.
Then the sobs came thick and fast.
Just at this point he met his soul's sworn comrade, Joe Harper --hard-eyed, and with
evidently a great and dismal purpose in his heart.
Plainly here were "two souls with but a single thought."
Tom, wiping his eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about a
resolution to escape from hard usage and lack of sympathy at home by roaming abroad
into the great world never to return; and
ended by hoping that Joe would not forget him.
But it transpired that this was a request which Joe had just been going to make of
Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose.
His mother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had never tasted and
knew nothing about; it was plain that she was tired of him and wished him to go; if
she felt that way, there was nothing for
him to do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret having driven
her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die.
As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact to stand by each
other and be brothers and never separate till death relieved them of their
troubles.
Then they began to lay their plans.
Joe was for being a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and dying, some
time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening to Tom, he conceded that
there were some conspicuous advantages
about a life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.
Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the Mississippi River was a
trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded island, with a shallow bar
at the head of it, and this offered well as a rendezvous.
It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the further shore, abreast a dense
and almost wholly unpeopled forest.
So Jackson's Island was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of their
piracies was a matter that did not occur to them.
Then they hunted up Huckleberry Finn, and he joined them promptly, for all careers
were one to him; he was indifferent.
They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on the river-bank two miles
above the village at the favorite hour-- which was midnight.
There was a small log raft there which they meant to capture.
Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he could steal in the most
dark and mysterious way--as became outlaws.
And before the afternoon was done, they had all managed to enjoy the sweet glory
of spreading the fact that pretty soon the town would "hear something."
All who got this vague hint were cautioned to "be mum and wait."
About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham and a few trifles, and stopped in a
dense undergrowth on a small bluff overlooking the meeting-place.
It was starlight, and very still.
The mighty river lay like an ocean at rest.
Tom listened a moment, but no sound disturbed the quiet.
Then he gave a low, distinct whistle.
It was answered from under the bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals
were answered in the same way. Then a guarded voice said:
"Who goes there?"
"Tom Sawyer, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main.
Name your names." "Huck Finn the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper
the Terror of the Seas."
Tom had furnished these titles, from his favorite literature.
"'Tis well. Give the countersign."
Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word simultaneously to the brooding
night: "BLOOD!"
Then Tom tumbled his ham over the bluff and let himself down after it, tearing
both skin and clothes to some extent in the effort.
There was an easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it lacked
the advantages of difficulty and danger so valued by a pirate.
The Terror of the Seas had brought a side of bacon, and had about worn himself out
with getting it there.
Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco,
and had also brought a few corn-cobs to make pipes with.
But none of the pirates smoked or "chewed" but himself.
The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main said it would never do to start without some
fire.
That was a wise thought; matches were hardly known there in that day.
They saw a fire smouldering upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they went
stealthily thither and helped themselves to a chunk.
They made an imposing adventure of it, saying, "Hist!"
every now and then, and suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on
imaginary dagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal whispers that if "the foe"
stirred, to "let him have it to the hilt," because "dead men tell no tales."
They knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at the village laying in
stores or having a spree, but still that was no excuse for their conducting this
thing in an unpiratical way.
They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck at the after oar and Joe at
the forward.
Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with folded arms, and gave his orders in a
low, stern whisper: "Luff, and bring her to the wind!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"Steady, steady-y-y-y!" "Steady it is, sir!"
"Let her go off a point!" "Point it is, sir!"
As the boys steadily and monotonously drove the raft toward mid-stream it was no
doubt understood that these orders were given only for "style," and were not
intended to mean anything in particular.
"What sail's she carrying?" "Courses, tops'ls, and flying-jib, sir."
"Send the r'yals up! Lay out aloft, there, half a dozen of ye -
-foretopmaststuns'l!
Lively, now!" "Aye-aye, sir!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces!
NOW my hearties!"
"Aye-aye, sir!" "Hellum-a-lee--hard a port!
Stand by to meet her when she comes! Port, port!
NOW, men!
With a will! Stead-y-y-y!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
The raft drew beyond the middle of the river; the boys pointed her head right,
and then lay on their oars. The river was not high, so there was not
more than a two or three mile current.
Hardly a word was said during the next three-quarters of an hour.
Now the raft was passing before the distant town.
Two or three glimmering lights showed where it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond
the vague vast sweep of star-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that
was happening.
The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, "looking his last" upon the scene of
his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing "she" could see him now,
abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and
death with dauntless heart, going to his doom with a grim smile on his lips.
It was but a small strain on his imagination to remove Jackson's Island
beyond eyeshot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with a broken and
satisfied heart.
The other pirates were looking their last, too; and they all looked so long that they
came near letting the current drift them out of the range of the island.
But they discovered the danger in time, and made shift to avert it.
About two o'clock in the morning the raft grounded on the bar two hundred yards
above the head of the island, and they waded back and forth until they had landed
their freight.
Part of the little raft's belongings consisted of an old sail, and this they
spread over a nook in the bushes for a tent to shelter their provisions; but they
themselves would sleep in the open air in good weather, as became outlaws.
They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty or thirty steps within
the sombre depths of the forest, and then cooked some bacon in the frying-pan for
supper, and used up half of the corn "pone" stock they had brought.
It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that wild, free way in the virgin forest
of an unexplored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of men, and they said
they never would return to civilization.
The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw its ruddy glare upon the pillared
tree-trunks of their forest temple, and upon the varnished foliage and festooning
vines.
When the last crisp slice of bacon was gone, and the last allowance of corn pone
devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass, filled with contentment.
They could have found a cooler place, but they would not deny themselves such a
romantic feature as the roasting camp- fire.
"AIN'T it gay?"
said Joe. "It's NUTS!"
said Tom. "What would the boys say if they could see
us?"
"Say? Well, they'd just die to be here--hey,
Hucky!" "I reckon so," said Huckleberry; "anyways,
I'm suited.
I don't want nothing better'n this. I don't ever get enough to eat, gen'ally--
and here they can't come and pick at a feller and bullyrag him so."
"It's just the life for me," said Tom.
"You don't have to get up, mornings, and you don't have to go to school, and wash,
and all that blame foolishness.
You see a pirate don't have to do ANYTHING, Joe, when he's ashore, but a
hermit HE has to be praying considerable, and then he don't have any fun, anyway,
all by himself that way."
"Oh yes, that's so," said Joe, "but I hadn't thought much about it, you know.
I'd a good deal rather be a pirate, now that I've tried it."
"You see," said Tom, "people don't go much on hermits, nowadays, like they used to in
old times, but a pirate's always respected.
And a hermit's got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put sackcloth and
ashes on his head, and stand out in the rain, and--"
"What does he put sackcloth and ashes on his head for?"
inquired Huck. "I dono.
But they've GOT to do it.
Hermits always do. You'd have to do that if you was a
hermit." "Dern'd if I would," said Huck.
"Well, what would you do?"
"I dono. But I wouldn't do that."
"Why, Huck, you'd HAVE to. How'd you get around it?"
"Why, I just wouldn't stand it.
I'd run away." "Run away!
Well, you WOULD be a nice old slouch of a hermit.
You'd be a disgrace."
The Red-Handed made no response, being better employed.
He had finished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded it
with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a cloud of fragrant
smoke--he was in the full bloom of luxurious contentment.
The other pirates envied him this majestic vice, and secretly resolved to acquire it
shortly.
Presently Huck said: "What does pirates have to do?"
Tom said:
"Oh, they have just a bully time--take ships and burn them, and get the money and
bury it in awful places in their island where there's ghosts and things to watch
it, and kill everybody in the ships--make 'em walk a plank."
"And they carry the women to the island," said Joe; "they don't kill the women."
"No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women--they're too noble.
And the women's always beautiful, too. "And don't they wear the bulliest clothes!
Oh no!
All gold and silver and di'monds," said Joe, with enthusiasm.
"Who?" said Huck.
"Why, the pirates."
Huck scanned his own clothing forlornly. "I reckon I ain't dressed fitten for a
pirate," said he, with a regretful pathos in his voice; "but I ain't got none but
these."
But the other boys told him the fine clothes would come fast enough, after they
should have begun their adventures.
They made him understand that his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was
customary for wealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.
Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon the eyelids
of the little waifs.
The pipe dropped from the fingers of the Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the
conscience-free and the weary.
The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main had more
difficulty in getting to sleep.
They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there
with authority to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind
not to say them at all, but they were
afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they might call down a sudden and
special thunderbolt from heaven.
Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge of sleep--but an
intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was conscience.
They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doing wrong to run away; and next
they thought of the stolen meat, and then the real torture came.
They tried to argue it away by reminding conscience that they had purloined
sweetmeats and apples scores of times; but conscience was not to be appeased by such
thin plausibilities; it seemed to them, in
the end, that there was no getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats
was only "hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain simple
stealing--and there was a command against that in the Bible.
So they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in the business, their
piracies should not again be sullied with the crime of stealing.
Then conscience granted a truce, and these curiously inconsistent pirates fell
peacefully to sleep.
>
Chapter XIV WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered
where he was. He sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked
around.
Then he comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn, and there was a
delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm and silence of the
woods.
Not a leaf stirred; not a sound obtruded upon great Nature's meditation.
Beaded dewdrops stood upon the leaves and grasses.
A white layer of ashes covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke rose
straight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept.
Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another answered; presently the hammering
of a woodpecker was heard.
Gradually the cool dim gray of the morning whitened, and as gradually sounds
multiplied and life manifested itself.
The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to work unfolded itself to the
musing boy.
A little green worm came crawling over a dewy leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body
into the air from time to time and "sniffing around," then proceeding again--
for he was measuring, Tom said; and when
the worm approached him, of its own accord, he sat as still as a stone, with
his hopes rising and falling, by turns, as the creature still came toward him or
seemed inclined to go elsewhere; and when
at last it considered a painful moment with its curved body in the air and then
came decisively down upon Tom's leg and began a journey over him, his whole heart
was glad--for that meant that he was going
to have a new suit of clothes--without the shadow of a doubt a gaudy piratical
uniform.
Now a procession of ants appeared, from nowhere in particular, and went about
their labors; one struggled manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as
itself in its arms, and lugged it straight up a tree-trunk.
A brown spotted lady-bug climbed the dizzy height of a grass blade, and Tom bent down
close to it and said, "Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your house is on fire, your
children's alone," and she took wing and
went off to see about it --which did not surprise the boy, for he knew of old that
this insect was credulous about conflagrations, and he had practised upon
its simplicity more than once.
A tumblebug came next, heaving sturdily at its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to
see it shut its legs against its body and pretend to be dead.
The birds were fairly rioting by this time.
A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's head, and trilled out her
imitations of her neighbors in a rapture of enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept
down, a flash of blue flame, and stopped
on a twig almost within the boy's reach, cocked his head to one side and eyed the
strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel and a big fellow of the
"fox" kind came skurrying along, sitting
up at intervals to inspect and chatter at the boys, for the wild things had probably
never seen a human being before and scarcely knew whether to be afraid or not.
All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long lances of sunlight pierced down
through the dense foliage far and near, and a few butterflies came fluttering upon
the scene.
Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a shout, and in a
minute or two were stripped and chasing after and tumbling over each other in the
shallow limpid water of the white sandbar.
They felt no longing for the little village sleeping in the distance beyond
the majestic waste of water.
A vagrant current or a slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this
only gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge between
them and civilization.
They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and ravenous; and
they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again.
Huck found a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad
oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a wildwood
charm as that, would be a good enough substitute for coffee.
While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him to hold on a
minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank and threw in their
lines; almost immediately they had reward.
Joe had not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some
handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish--provisions enough for quite
a family.
They fried the fish with the bacon, and were astonished; for no fish had ever
seemed so delicious before.
They did not know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he
is caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce open-
air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing,
and a large ingredient of hunger make, too.
They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke, and
then went off through the woods on an exploring expedition.
They tramped gayly along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among
solemn monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns to the ground with a drooping
regalia of grape-vines.
Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted with grass and jeweled with
flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be
astonished at.
They discovered that the island was about three miles long and a quarter of a mile
wide, and that the shore it lay closest to was only separated from it by a narrow
channel hardly two hundred yards wide.
They took a swim about every hour, so it was close upon the middle of the afternoon
when they got back to camp.
They were too hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and
then threw themselves down in the shade to talk.
But the talk soon began to drag, and then died.
The stillness, the solemnity that brooded in the woods, and the sense of loneliness,
began to tell upon the spirits of the boys.
They fell to thinking.
A sort of undefined longing crept upon them.
This took dim shape, presently--it was budding homesickness.
Even Finn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps and empty hogsheads.
But they were all ashamed of their weakness, and none was brave enough to
speak his thought.
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar sound in the
distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a clock which he takes no
distinct note of.
But now this mysterious sound became more pronounced, and forced a recognition.
The boys started, glanced at each other, and then each assumed a listening
attitude.
There was a long silence, profound and unbroken; then a deep, sullen boom came
floating down out of the distance. "What is it!"
exclaimed Joe, under his breath.
"I wonder," said Tom in a whisper. "'Tain't thunder," said Huckleberry, in an
awed tone, "becuz thunder--" "Hark!"
said Tom.
"Listen--don't talk." They waited a time that seemed an age, and
then the same muffled boom troubled the solemn hush.
"Let's go and see."
They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore toward the town.
They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water.
The little steam ferryboat was about a mile below the village, drifting with the
current. Her broad deck seemed crowded with people.
There were a great many skiffs rowing about or floating with the stream in the
neighborhood of the ferryboat, but the boys could not determine what the men in
them were doing.
Presently a great jet of white smoke burst from the ferryboat's side, and as it
expanded and rose in a lazy cloud, that same dull throb of sound was borne to the
listeners again.
"I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"
"That's it!"
said Huck; "they done that last summer, when Bill Turner got drownded; they shoot
a cannon over the water, and that makes him come up to the top.
Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put quicksilver in 'em and set 'em afloat, and
wherever there's anybody that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."
"Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe.
"I wonder what makes the bread do that." "Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said
Tom; "I reckon it's mostly what they SAY over it before they start it out."
"But they don't say anything over it," said Huck.
"I've seen 'em and they don't." "Well, that's funny," said Tom.
"But maybe they say it to themselves.
Of COURSE they do. Anybody might know that."
The other boys agreed that there was reason in what Tom said, because an
ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be expected to act
very intelligently when set upon an errand of such gravity.
"By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.
"I do too" said Huck "I'd give heaps to know who it is."
The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought flashed
through Tom's mind, and he exclaimed:
"Boys, I know who's drownded--it's us!" They felt like heroes in an instant.
Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were
breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of
unkindness to these poor lost lads were
rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged; and best of
all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys,
as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned.
This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after
all.
As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her accustomed business and the
skiffs disappeared. The pirates returned to camp.
They were jubilant with vanity over their new grandeur and the illustrious trouble
they were making.
They caught fish, cooked supper and ate it, and then fell to guessing at what the
village was thinking and saying about them; and the pictures they drew of the
public distress on their account were
gratifying to look upon--from their point of view.
But when the shadows of night closed them in, they gradually ceased to talk, and sat
gazing into the fire, with their minds evidently wandering elsewhere.
The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe could not keep back thoughts of
certain persons at home who were not enjoying this fine frolic as much as they
were.
Misgivings came; they grew troubled and unhappy; a sigh or two escaped, unawares.
By and by Joe timidly ventured upon a roundabout "feeler" as to how the others
might look upon a return to civilization-- not right now, but--
Tom withered him with derision!
Huck, being uncommitted as yet, joined in with Tom, and the waverer quickly
"explained," and was glad to get out of the scrape with as little taint of
chicken-hearted homesickness clinging to his garments as he could.
Mutiny was effectually laid to rest for the moment.
As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and presently to snore.
Joe followed next. Tom lay upon his elbow motionless, for
some time, watching the two intently.
At last he got up cautiously, on his knees, and went searching among the grass
and the flickering reflections flung by the camp-fire.
He picked up and inspected several large semi-cylinders of the thin white bark of a
sycamore, and finally chose two which seemed to suit him.
Then he knelt by the fire and painfully wrote something upon each of these with
his "red keel"; one he rolled up and put in his jacket pocket, and the other he put
in Joe's hat and removed it to a little distance from the owner.
And he also put into the hat certain schoolboy treasures of almost inestimable
value--among them a lump of chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and
one of that kind of marbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal."
Then he tiptoed his way cautiously among the trees till he felt that he was out of
hearing, and straightway broke into a keen run in the direction of the sandbar.
>
Chapter XV A FEW minutes later Tom was in the shoal
water of the bar, wading toward the Illinois shore.
Before the depth reached his middle he was half-way over; the current would permit no
more wading, now, so he struck out confidently to swim the remaining hundred
yards.
He swam quartering upstream, but still was swept downward rather faster than he had
expected.
However, he reached the shore finally, and drifted along till he found a low place
and drew himself out.
He put his hand on his jacket pocket, found his piece of bark safe, and then
struck through the woods, following the shore, with streaming garments.
Shortly before ten o'clock he came out into an open place opposite the village,
and saw the ferryboat lying in the shadow of the trees and the high bank.
Everything was quiet under the blinking stars.
He crept down the bank, watching with all his eyes, slipped into the water, swam
three or four strokes and climbed into the skiff that did "yawl" duty at the boat's
stern.
He laid himself down under the thwarts and waited, panting.
Presently the cracked bell tapped and a voice gave the order to "cast off."
A minute or two later the skiff's head was standing high up, against the boat's
swell, and the voyage was begun. Tom felt happy in his success, for he knew
it was the boat's last trip for the night.
At the end of a long twelve or fifteen minutes the wheels stopped, and Tom
slipped overboard and swam ashore in the dusk, landing fifty yards downstream, out
of danger of possible stragglers.
He flew along unfrequented alleys, and shortly found himself at his aunt's back
fence.
He climbed over, approached the "ell," and looked in at the sitting-room window, for
a light was burning there.
There sat Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, and Joe Harper's mother, grouped together,
talking. They were by the bed, and the bed was
between them and the door.
Tom went to the door and began to softly lift the latch; then he pressed gently and
the door yielded a crack; he continued pushing cautiously, and quaking every time
it creaked, till he judged he might
squeeze through on his knees; so he put his head through and began, warily.
"What makes the candle blow so?" said Aunt Polly.
Tom hurried up.
"Why, that door's open, I believe. Why, of course it is.
No end of strange things now. Go 'long and shut it, Sid."
Tom disappeared under the bed just in time.
He lay and "breathed" himself for a time, and then crept to where he could almost
touch his aunt's foot.
"But as I was saying," said Aunt Polly, "he warn't BAD, so to say --only
mischEEvous. Only just giddy, and harum-scarum, you
know.
He warn't any more responsible than a colt.
HE never meant any harm, and he was the best-hearted boy that ever was"--and she
began to cry.
"It was just so with my Joe--always full of his devilment, and up to every kind of
mischief, but he was just as unselfish and kind as he could be--and laws bless me, to
think I went and whipped him for taking
that cream, never once recollecting that I throwed it out myself because it was sour,
and I never to see him again in this world, never, never, never, poor abused
boy!"
And Mrs. Harper sobbed as if her heart would break.
"I hope Tom's better off where he is," said Sid, "but if he'd been better in some
ways--"
"SID!" Tom felt the glare of the old lady's eye,
though he could not see it. "Not a word against my Tom, now that he's
gone!
God'll take care of HIM--never you trouble YOURself, sir!
Oh, Mrs. Harper, I don't know how to give him up!
I don't know how to give him up!
He was such a comfort to me, although he tormented my old heart out of me, 'most."
"The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away--Blessed be the name of the Lord!
But it's so hard--Oh, it's so hard!
Only last Saturday my Joe busted a firecracker right under my nose and I
knocked him sprawling.
Little did I know then, how soon--Oh, if it was to do over again I'd hug him and
bless him for it."
"Yes, yes, yes, I know just how you feel, Mrs. Harper, I know just exactly how you
feel.
No longer ago than yesterday noon, my Tom took and filled the cat full of Pain-
killer, and I did think the cretur would tear the house down.
And God forgive me, I cracked Tom's head with my thimble, poor boy, poor dead boy.
But he's out of all his troubles now. And the last words I ever heard him say
was to reproach--"
But this memory was too much for the old lady, and she broke entirely down.
Tom was snuffling, now, himself--and more in pity of himself than anybody else.
He could hear Mary crying, and putting in a kindly word for him from time to time.
He began to have a nobler opinion of himself than ever before.
Still, he was sufficiently touched by his aunt's grief to long to rush out from
under the bed and overwhelm her with joy-- and the theatrical gorgeousness of the
thing appealed strongly to his nature, too, but he resisted and lay still.
He went on listening, and gathered by odds and ends that it was conjectured at first
that the boys had got drowned while taking a swim; then the small raft had been
missed; next, certain boys said the
missing lads had promised that the village should "hear something" soon; the wise-
heads had "put this and that together" and decided that the lads had gone off on that
raft and would turn up at the next town
below, presently; but toward noon the raft had been found, lodged against the
Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village --and then hope
perished; they must be drowned, else
hunger would have driven them home by nightfall if not sooner.
It was believed that the search for the bodies had been a fruitless effort merely
because the drowning must have occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good
swimmers, would otherwise have escaped to shore.
This was Wednesday night.
If the bodies continued missing until Sunday, all hope would be given over, and
the funerals would be preached on that morning.
Tom shuddered.
Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing good-night and turned to go.
Then with a mutual impulse the two bereaved women flung themselves into each
other's arms and had a good, consoling cry, and then parted.
Aunt Polly was tender far beyond her wont, in her good-night to Sid and Mary.
Sid snuffled a bit and Mary went off crying with all her heart.
Aunt Polly knelt down and prayed for Tom so touchingly, so appealingly, and with
such measureless love in her words and her old trembling voice, that he was weltering
in tears again, long before she was through.
He had to keep still long after she went to bed, for she kept making broken-hearted
ejaculations from time to time, tossing unrestfully, and turning over.
But at last she was still, only moaning a little in her sleep.
Now the boy stole out, rose gradually by the bedside, shaded the candle-light with
his hand, and stood regarding her.
His heart was full of pity for her. He took out his sycamore scroll and placed
it by the candle. But something occurred to him, and he
lingered considering.
His face lighted with a happy solution of his thought; he put the bark hastily in
his pocket.
Then he bent over and kissed the faded lips, and straightway made his stealthy
exit, latching the door behind him.
He threaded his way back to the ferry landing, found nobody at large there, and
walked boldly on board the boat, for he knew she was tenantless except that there
was a watchman, who always turned in and slept like a graven image.
He untied the skiff at the stern, slipped into it, and was soon rowing cautiously
upstream.
When he had pulled a mile above the village, he started quartering across and
bent himself stoutly to his work.
He hit the landing on the other side neatly, for this was a familiar bit of
work to him.
He was moved to capture the skiff, arguing that it might be considered a ship and
therefore legitimate prey for a pirate, but he knew a thorough search would be
made for it and that might end in revelations.
So he stepped ashore and entered the woods.
He sat down and took a long rest, torturing himself meanwhile to keep awake,
and then started warily down the home- stretch.
The night was far spent.
It was broad daylight before he found himself fairly abreast the island bar.
He rested again until the sun was well up and gilding the great river with its
splendor, and then he plunged into the stream.
A little later he paused, dripping, upon the threshold of the camp, and heard Joe
say: "No, Tom's true-blue, Huck, and he'll come
back.
He won't desert. He knows that would be a disgrace to a
pirate, and Tom's too proud for that sort of thing.
He's up to something or other.
Now I wonder what?" "Well, the things is ours, anyway, ain't
they?" "Pretty near, but not yet, Huck.
The writing says they are if he ain't back here to breakfast."
"Which he is!" exclaimed Tom, with fine dramatic effect,
stepping grandly into camp.
A sumptuous breakfast of bacon and fish was shortly provided, and as the boys set
to work upon it, Tom recounted (and adorned) his adventures.
They were a vain and boastful company of heroes when the tale was done.
Then Tom hid himself away in a shady nook to sleep till noon, and the other pirates
got ready to fish and explore.
>
Chapter XVI AFTER dinner all the gang turned out to
hunt for turtle eggs on the bar.
They went about poking sticks into the sand, and when they found a soft place
they went down on their knees and dug with their hands.
Sometimes they would take fifty or sixty eggs out of one hole.
They were perfectly round white things a trifle smaller than an English walnut.
They had a famous fried-egg feast that night, and another on Friday morning.
After breakfast they went whooping and prancing out on the bar, and chased each
other round and round, shedding clothes as they went, until they were naked, and then
continued the frolic far away up the shoal
water of the bar, against the stiff current, which latter tripped their legs
from under them from time to time and greatly increased the fun.
And now and then they stooped in a group and splashed water in each other's faces
with their palms, gradually approaching each other, with averted faces to avoid
the strangling sprays, and finally
gripping and struggling till the best man ducked his neighbor, and then they all
went under in a tangle of white legs and arms and came up blowing, sputtering,
laughing, and gasping for breath at one and the same time.
When they were well exhausted, they would run out and sprawl on the dry, hot sand,
and lie there and cover themselves up with it, and by and by break for the water
again and go through the original performance once more.
Finally it occurred to them that their naked skin represented flesh-colored
"tights" very fairly; so they drew a ring in the sand and had a circus--with three
clowns in it, for none would yield this proudest post to his neighbor.
Next they got their marbles and played "knucks" and "ring-taw" and "keeps" till
that amusement grew stale.
Then Joe and Huck had another swim, but Tom would not venture, because he found
that in kicking off his trousers he had kicked his string of rattlesnake rattles
off his ankle, and he wondered how he had
escaped cramp so long without the protection of this mysterious charm.
He did not venture again until he had found it, and by that time the other boys
were tired and ready to rest.
They gradually wandered apart, dropped into the "dumps," and fell to gazing
longingly across the wide river to where the village lay drowsing in the sun.
Tom found himself writing "BECKY" in the sand with his big toe; he scratched it
out, and was angry with himself for his weakness.
But he wrote it again, nevertheless; he could not help it.
He erased it once more and then took himself out of temptation by driving the
other boys together and joining them.
But Joe's spirits had gone down almost beyond resurrection.
He was so homesick that he could hardly endure the misery of it.
The tears lay very near the surface.
Huck was melancholy, too. Tom was downhearted, but tried hard not to
show it.
He had a secret which he was not ready to tell, yet, but if this mutinous depression
was not broken up soon, he would have to bring it out.
He said, with a great show of cheerfulness:
"I bet there's been pirates on this island before, boys.
We'll explore it again.
They've hid treasures here somewhere. How'd you feel to light on a rotten chest
full of gold and silver--hey?" But it roused only faint enthusiasm, which
faded out, with no reply.
Tom tried one or two other seductions; but they failed, too.
It was discouraging work. Joe sat poking up the sand with a stick
and looking very gloomy.
Finally he said: "Oh, boys, let's give it up.
I want to go home. It's so lonesome."
"Oh no, Joe, you'll feel better by and by," said Tom.
"Just think of the fishing that's here." "I don't care for fishing.
I want to go home."
"But, Joe, there ain't such another swimming-place anywhere."
"Swimming's no good.
I don't seem to care for it, somehow, when there ain't anybody to say I sha'n't go
in. I mean to go home."
"Oh, shucks!
Baby! You want to see your mother, I reckon."
"Yes, I DO want to see my mother--and you would, too, if you had one.
I ain't any more baby than you are."
And Joe snuffled a little. "Well, we'll let the cry-baby go home to
his mother, won't we, Huck? Poor thing--does it want to see its
mother?
And so it shall. You like it here, don't you, Huck?
We'll stay, won't we?" Huck said, "Y-e-s"--without any heart in
it.
"I'll never speak to you again as long as I live," said Joe, rising.
"There now!" And he moved moodily away and began to
dress himself.
"Who cares!" said Tom.
"Nobody wants you to. Go 'long home and get laughed at.
Oh, you're a nice pirate.
Huck and me ain't cry-babies. We'll stay, won't we, Huck?
Let him go if he wants to. I reckon we can get along without him,
per'aps."
But Tom was uneasy, nevertheless, and was alarmed to see Joe go sullenly on with his
dressing.
And then it was discomforting to see Huck eying Joe's preparations so wistfully, and
keeping up such an ominous silence.
Presently, without a parting word, Joe began to wade off toward the Illinois
shore. Tom's heart began to sink.
He glanced at Huck.
Huck could not bear the look, and dropped his eyes.
Then he said: "I want to go, too, Tom.
It was getting so lonesome anyway, and now it'll be worse.
Let's us go, too, Tom." "I won't!
You can all go, if you want to.
I mean to stay." "Tom, I better go."
"Well, go 'long--who's hendering you." Huck began to pick up his scattered
clothes.
He said: "Tom, I wisht you'd come, too.
Now you think it over. We'll wait for you when we get to shore."
"Well, you'll wait a blame long time, that's all."
Huck started sorrowfully away, and Tom stood looking after him, with a strong
desire tugging at his heart to yield his pride and go along too.
He hoped the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on.
It suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very lonely and still.
He made one final struggle with his pride, and then darted after his comrades,
yelling: "Wait!
Wait!
I want to tell you something!" They presently stopped and turned around.
When he got to where they were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened
moodily till at last they saw the "point" he was driving at, and then they set up a
war-whoop of applause and said it was "splendid!"
and said if he had told them at first, they wouldn't have started away.
He made a plausible excuse; but his real reason had been the fear that not even the
secret would keep them with him any very great length of time, and so he had meant
to hold it in reserve as a last seduction.
The lads came gayly back and went at their sports again with a will, chattering all
the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the genius of it.
After a dainty egg and fish dinner, Tom said he wanted to learn to smoke, now.
Joe caught at the idea and said he would like to try, too.
So Huck made pipes and filled them.
These novices had never smoked anything before but cigars made of grape-vine, and
they "bit" the tongue, and were not considered manly anyway.
Now they stretched themselves out on their elbows and began to puff, charily, and
with slender confidence. The smoke had an unpleasant taste, and
they gagged a little, but Tom said:
"Why, it's just as easy! If I'd a knowed this was all, I'd a learnt
long ago." "So would I," said Joe.
"It's just nothing."
"Why, many a time I've looked at people smoking, and thought well I wish I could
do that; but I never thought I could," said Tom.
"That's just the way with me, hain't it, Huck?
You've heard me talk just that way-- haven't you, Huck?
I'll leave it to Huck if I haven't."
"Yes--heaps of times," said Huck. "Well, I have too," said Tom; "oh,
hundreds of times. Once down by the slaughter-house.
Don't you remember, Huck?
Bob Tanner was there, and Johnny Miller, and Jeff Thatcher, when I said it.
Don't you remember, Huck, 'bout me saying that?"
"Yes, that's so," said Huck.
"That was the day after I lost a white alley.
No, 'twas the day before." "There--I told you so," said Tom.
"Huck recollects it."
"I bleeve I could smoke this pipe all day," said Joe.
"I don't feel sick." "Neither do I," said Tom.
"I could smoke it all day.
But I bet you Jeff Thatcher couldn't." "Jeff Thatcher!
Why, he'd keel over just with two draws. Just let him try it once.
HE'D see!"
"I bet he would. And Johnny Miller--I wish could see Johnny
Miller tackle it once." "Oh, don't I!"
said Joe.
"Why, I bet you Johnny Miller couldn't any more do this than nothing.
Just one little snifter would fetch HIM." "'Deed it would, Joe.
Say--I wish the boys could see us now."
"So do I." "Say--boys, don't say anything about it,
and some time when they're around, I'll come up to you and say, 'Joe, got a pipe?
I want a smoke.' And you'll say, kind of careless like, as if it warn't anything,
you'll say, 'Yes, I got my OLD pipe, and another one, but my tobacker ain't very
good.' And I'll say, 'Oh, that's all
right, if it's STRONG enough.' And then you'll out with the pipes, and we'll light
up just as ca'm, and then just see 'em look!"
"By jings, that'll be gay, Tom!
I wish it was NOW!" "So do I!
And when we tell 'em we learned when we was off pirating, won't they wish they'd
been along?"
"Oh, I reckon not! I'll just BET they will!"
So the talk ran on. But presently it began to flag a trifle,
and grow disjointed.
The silences widened; the expectoration marvellously increased.
Every pore inside the boys' cheeks became a spouting fountain; they could scarcely
bail out the cellars under their tongues fast enough to prevent an inundation;
little overflowings down their throats
occurred in spite of all they could do, and sudden retchings followed every time.
Both boys were looking very pale and miserable, now.
Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers.
Tom's followed. Both fountains were going furiously and
both pumps bailing with might and main.
Joe said feebly: "I've lost my knife.
I reckon I better go and find it." Tom said, with quivering lips and halting
utterance:
"I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt around
by the spring. No, you needn't come, Huck--we can find
it."
So Huck sat down again, and waited an hour.
Then he found it lonesome, and went to find his comrades.
They were wide apart in the woods, both very pale, both fast asleep.
But something informed him that if they had had any trouble they had got rid of
it.
They were not talkative at supper that night.
They had a humble look, and when Huck prepared his pipe after the meal and was
going to prepare theirs, they said no, they were not feeling very well--something
they ate at dinner had disagreed with them.
About midnight Joe awoke, and called the boys.
There was a brooding oppressiveness in the air that seemed to bode something.
The boys huddled themselves together and sought the friendly companionship of the
fire, though the dull dead heat of the breathless atmosphere was stifling.
They sat still, intent and waiting.
The solemn hush continued. Beyond the light of the fire everything
was swallowed up in the blackness of darkness.
Presently there came a quivering glow that vaguely revealed the foliage for a moment
and then vanished. By and by another came, a little stronger.
Then another.
Then a faint moan came sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys felt a
fleeting breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered with the fancy that the Spirit
of the Night had gone by.
There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned night into day
and showed every little grass-blade, separate and distinct, that grew about
their feet.
And it showed three white, startled faces, too.
A deep peal of thunder went rolling and tumbling down the heavens and lost itself
in sullen rumblings in the distance.
A sweep of chilly air passed by, rustling all the leaves and snowing the flaky ashes
broadcast about the fire.
Another fierce glare lit up the forest and an instant crash followed that seemed to
rend the tree-tops right over the boys' heads.
They clung together in terror, in the thick gloom that followed.
A few big rain-drops fell pattering upon the leaves.
"Quick!
boys, go for the tent!" exclaimed Tom.
They sprang away, stumbling over roots and among vines in the dark, no two plunging
in the same direction.
A furious blast roared through the trees, making everything sing as it went.
One blinding flash after another came, and peal on peal of deafening thunder.
And now a drenching rain poured down and the rising hurricane drove it in sheets
along the ground.
The boys cried out to each other, but the roaring wind and the booming thunder-
blasts drowned their voices utterly.
However, one by one they straggled in at last and took shelter under the tent,
cold, scared, and streaming with water; but to have company in misery seemed
something to be grateful for.
They could not talk, the old sail flapped so furiously, even if the other noises
would have allowed them.
The tempest rose higher and higher, and presently the sail tore loose from its
fastenings and went winging away on the blast.
The boys seized each others' hands and fled, with many tumblings and bruises, to
the shelter of a great oak that stood upon the river-bank.
Now the battle was at its highest.
Under the ceaseless conflagration of lightning that flamed in the skies,
everything below stood out in clean-cut and shadowless distinctness: the bending
trees, the billowy river, white with foam,
the driving spray of spume-flakes, the dim outlines of the high bluffs on the other
side, glimpsed through the drifting cloud- rack and the slanting veil of rain.
Every little while some giant tree yielded the fight and fell crashing through the
younger growth; and the unflagging thunder-peals came now in ear-splitting
explosive bursts, keen and sharp, and unspeakably appalling.
The storm culminated in one matchless effort that seemed likely to tear the
island to pieces, burn it up, drown it to the tree-tops, blow it away, and deafen
every creature in it, all at one and the same moment.
It was a wild night for homeless young heads to be out in.
But at last the battle was done, and the forces retired with weaker and weaker
threatenings and grumblings, and peace resumed her sway.
The boys went back to camp, a good deal awed; but they found there was still
something to be thankful for, because the great sycamore, the shelter of their beds,
was a ruin, now, blasted by the
lightnings, and they were not under it when the catastrophe happened.
Everything in camp was drenched, the camp- fire as well; for they were but heedless
lads, like their generation, and had made no provision against rain.
Here was matter for dismay, for they were soaked through and chilled.
They were eloquent in their distress; but they presently discovered that the fire
had eaten so far up under the great log it had been built against (where it curved
upward and separated itself from the
ground), that a handbreadth or so of it had escaped wetting; so they patiently
wrought until, with shreds and bark gathered from the under sides of sheltered
logs, they coaxed the fire to burn again.
Then they piled on great dead boughs till they had a roaring furnace, and were glad-
hearted once more.
They dried their boiled ham and had a feast, and after that they sat by the fire
and expanded and glorified their midnight adventure until morning, for there was not
a dry spot to sleep on, anywhere around.
As the sun began to steal in upon the boys, drowsiness came over them, and they
went out on the sandbar and lay down to sleep.
They got scorched out by and by, and drearily set about getting breakfast.
After the meal they felt rusty, and stiff- jointed, and a little homesick once more.
Tom saw the signs, and fell to cheering up the pirates as well as he could.
But they cared nothing for marbles, or circus, or swimming, or anything.
He reminded them of the imposing secret, and raised a ray of cheer.
While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device.
This was to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change.
They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before they were stripped,
and striped from head to heel with black mud, like so many zebras--all of them
chiefs, of course--and then they went
tearing through the woods to attack an English settlement.
By and by they separated into three hostile tribes, and darted upon each other
from ambush with dreadful war-whoops, and killed and scalped each other by
thousands.
It was a gory day. Consequently it was an extremely
satisfactory one.
They assembled in camp toward supper-time, hungry and happy; but now a difficulty
arose--hostile Indians could not break the bread of hospitality together without
first making peace, and this was a simple
impossibility without smoking a pipe of peace.
There was no other process that ever they had heard of.
Two of the savages almost wished they had remained pirates.
However, there was no other way; so with such show of cheerfulness as they could
muster they called for the pipe and took their whiff as it passed, in due form.
And behold, they were glad they had gone into savagery, for they had gained
something; they found that they could now smoke a little without having to go and
hunt for a lost knife; they did not get sick enough to be seriously uncomfortable.
They were not likely to fool away this high promise for lack of effort.
No, they practised cautiously, after supper, with right fair success, and so
they spent a jubilant evening.
They were prouder and happier in their new acquirement than they would have been in
the scalping and skinning of the Six Nations.
We will leave them to smoke and chatter and brag, since we have no further use for
them at present.
>
Chapter XVII BUT there was no hilarity in the little
town that same tranquil Saturday afternoon.
The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family, were being put into mourning, with great grief
and many tears.
An unusual quiet possessed the village, although it was ordinarily quiet enough,
in all conscience.
The villagers conducted their concerns with an absent air, and talked little; but
they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a burden to
the children.
They had no heart in their sports, and gradually gave them up.
In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself moping about the deserted
schoolhouse yard, and feeling very melancholy.
But she found nothing there to comfort her.
She soliloquized: "Oh, if I only had a brass andiron-knob
again!
But I haven't got anything now to remember him by."
And she choked back a little sob. Presently she stopped, and said to
herself:
"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again, I wouldn't
say that--I wouldn't say it for the whole world.
But he's gone now; I'll never, never, never see him any more."
This thought broke her down, and she wandered away, with tears rolling down her
cheeks.
Then quite a group of boys and girls-- playmates of Tom's and Joe's--came by, and
stood looking over the paling fence and talking in reverent tones of how Tom did
so-and-so the last time they saw him, and
how Joe said this and that small trifle (pregnant with awful prophecy, as they
could easily see now!)--and each speaker pointed out the exact spot where the lost
lads stood at the time, and then added
something like "and I was a-standing just so--just as I am now, and as if you was
him--I was as close as that--and he smiled, just this way--and then something
seemed to go all over me, like--awful, you
know--and I never thought what it meant, of course, but I can see now!"
Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead boys last in life, and many claimed
that dismal distinction, and offered evidences, more or less tampered with by
the witness; and when it was ultimately
decided who DID see the departed last, and exchanged the last words with them, the
lucky parties took upon themselves a sort of sacred importance, and were gaped at
and envied by all the rest.
One poor chap, who had no other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest
pride in the remembrance: "Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."
But that bid for glory was a failure.
Most of the boys could say that, and so that cheapened the distinction too much.
The group loitered away, still recalling memories of the lost heroes, in awed
voices.
When the Sunday-school hour was finished, the next morning, the bell began to toll,
instead of ringing in the usual way.
It was a very still Sabbath, and the mournful sound seemed in keeping with the
musing hush that lay upon nature.
The villagers began to gather, loitering a moment in the vestibule to converse in
whispers about the sad event.
But there was no whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of dresses as
the women gathered to their seats disturbed the silence there.
None could remember when the little church had been so full before.
There was finally a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt Polly
entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by the Harper family, all in deep
black, and the whole congregation, the old
minister as well, rose reverently and stood until the mourners were seated in
the front pew.
There was another communing silence, broken at intervals by muffled sobs, and
then the minister spread his hands abroad and prayed.
A moving hymn was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection and the
Life."
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the
winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking
he recognized these pictures, felt a pang
in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and
had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys.
The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed,
too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could
easily see, now, how noble and beautiful
those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they
had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide.
The congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till
at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus of
anguished sobs, the preacher himself
giving way to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church
door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and
stood transfixed!
First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost
with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came
marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead,
Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear!
They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored ones,
smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood
abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing
exactly what to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes.
He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair.
Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck." "And so they shall.
I'm glad to see him, poor motherless thing!"
And the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing
capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: "Praise God from whom all
blessings flow--SING!--and put your hearts in it!"
And they did.
Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and while it shook the rafters Tom
Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the envying juveniles about him and confessed
in his heart that this was the proudest moment of his life.
As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said they would almost be willing to
be made ridiculous again to hear Old Hundred sung like that once more.
Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day-- according to Aunt Polly's varying moods--
than he had earned before in a year; and he hardly knew which expressed the most
gratefulness to God and affection for himself.
>
Chapter XVIII THAT was Tom's great secret--the scheme to
return home with his brother pirates and attend their own funerals.
They had paddled over to the Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday,
landing five or six miles below the village; they had slept in the woods at
the edge of the town till nearly daylight,
and had then crept through back lanes and alleys and finished their sleep in the
gallery of the church among a chaos of invalided benches.
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to Tom, and very
attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk.
In the course of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody suffering 'most a
week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity you could be so hard-hearted as
to let me suffer so.
If you could come over on a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and
give me a hint some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you would if you had
thought of it." "Would you, Tom?"
said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully.
"Say, now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I--well, I don't know.
'Twould 'a' spoiled everything." "Tom, I hoped you loved me that much,"
said Aunt Polly, with a grieved tone that discomforted the boy.
"It would have been something if you'd cared enough to THINK of it, even if you
didn't DO it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's giddy way--
he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of anything."
"More's the pity.
Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and DONE it, too.
Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late, and wish you'd cared a little
more for me when it would have cost you so little."
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I dreamt about you,
anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much--a cat does that much--but it's better than nothing.
What did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the bed, and Sid
was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did.
So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take even that
much trouble about us." "And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was
here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect--can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind--the wind blowed the--the--"
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something.
Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then said:
"I've got it now! I've got it now!
It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom--go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that that door--'"
"Go ON, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment--just a moment.
Oh, yes--you said you believed the door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did!
Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then--and then--well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if you made
Sid go and--and--"
"Well? Well?
What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him--you--Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my
days!
Don't tell ME there ain't anything in dreams, any more.
Sereny Harper shall know of this before I'm an hour older.
I'd like to see her get around THIS with her rubbage 'bout superstition.
Go on, Tom!" "Oh, it's all getting just as bright as
day, now.
Next you said I warn't BAD, only mischeevous and harum-scarum, and not any
more responsible than--than--I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was!
Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry." "So I did.
So I did.
Not the first time, neither. And then--"
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same, and she wished
she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd throwed it out her own self--"
"Tom!
The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying--that's what you was
doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said--he said--"
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid. "Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said--I THINK he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone to, but if I'd
been better sometimes--" "THERE, d'you hear that!
It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp." "I lay I did!
There must 'a' been an angel there. There WAS an angel there, somewheres!"
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and you told about
Peter and the Painkiller--" "Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for us, and 'bout
having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper hugged and cried, and
she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-
sitting in these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if
you'd 'a' seen it!
And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me--and I could see you and hear every word you
said.
And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and wrote on a piece of
sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead--we are only off being pirates,' and put it on the
table by the candle; and then you looked
so good, laying there asleep, that I thought I went and leaned over and kissed
you on the lips." "Did you, Tom, DID you!
I just forgive you everything for that!"
And she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the
guiltiest of villains. "It was very kind, even though it was only
a--dream," Sid soliloquized just audibly.
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as
he'd do if he was awake.
Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you was ever found again-
-now go 'long to school.
I'm thankful to the good God and Father of us all I've got you back, that's long-
suffering and merciful to them that believe on Him and keep His word, though
goodness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if
only the worthy ones got His blessings and had His hand to help them over the rough
places, there's few enough would smile here or ever enter into His rest when the
long night comes.
Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom--take yourselves off--you've hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper and vanquish
her realism with Tom's marvellous dream.
Sid had better judgment than to utter the thought that was in his mind as he left
the house. It was this: "Pretty thin--as long a dream
as that, without any mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing, but
moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the public eye was on
him.
And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he
passed along, but they were food and drink to him.
Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be seen with him, and
tolerated by him, as if he had been the drummer at the head of a procession or the
elephant leading a menagerie into town.
Boys of his own size pretended not to know he had been away at all; but they were
consuming with envy, nevertheless.
They would have given anything to have that swarthy suntanned skin of his, and
his glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted with either for a circus.
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered such eloquent
admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not long in becoming
insufferably "stuck-up."
They began to tell their adventures to hungry listeners--but they only began; it
was not a thing likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish
material.
And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely puffing around, the very
summit of glory was reached. Tom decided that he could be independent
of Becky Thatcher now.
Glory was sufficient. He would live for glory.
Now that he was distinguished, maybe she would be wanting to "make up."
Well, let her--she should see that he could be as indifferent as some other
people. Presently she arrived.
Tom pretended not to see her.
He moved away and joined a group of boys and girls and began to talk.
Soon he observed that she was tripping gayly back and forth with flushed face and
dancing eyes, pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, and screaming with
laughter when she made a capture; but he
noticed that she always made her captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to
cast a conscious eye in his direction at such times, too.
It gratified all the vicious vanity that was in him; and so, instead of winning
him, it only "set him up" the more and made him the more diligent to avoid
betraying that he knew she was about.
Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved irresolutely about, sighing once or
twice and glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom.
Then she observed that now Tom was talking more particularly to Amy Lawrence than to
any one else. She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed
and uneasy at once.
She tried to go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group
instead. She said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow--
with sham vivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to
Sunday-school?" "I did come--didn't you see me?"
"Why, no!
Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go.
I saw YOU."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you.
I wanted to tell you about the picnic." "Oh, that's jolly.
Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one." "Oh, goody; I hope she'll let ME come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me.
She'll let anybody come that I want, and I want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by.
Maybe about vacation." "Oh, won't it be fun!
You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me--or wants to be"; and she glanced ever so
furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence about the terrible
storm on the island, and how the lightning
tore the great sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within
three feet of it." "Oh, may I come?"
said Grace Miller.
"Yes." "And me?"
said Sally Rogers. "Yes."
"And me, too?"
said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
"Yes."
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged for
invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still
talking, and took Amy with him.
Becky's lips trembled and the tears came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a
forced gayety and went on chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now,
and out of everything else; she got away
as soon as she could and hid herself and had what her sex call "a good cry."
Then she sat moody, with wounded pride, till the bell rang.
She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a
shake and said she knew what SHE'D do. At recess Tom continued his flirtation
with Amy with jubilant self-satisfaction.
And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her with the performance.
At last he spied her, but there was a sudden falling of his mercury.
She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind the schoolhouse looking at a
picture-book with Alfred Temple--and so absorbed were they, and their heads so
close together over the book, that they
did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world besides.
Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom's veins.
He began to hate himself for throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a
reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the hard
names he could think of.
He wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked,
for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost its function.
He did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever she paused expectantly he could
only stammer an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced as otherwise.
He kept drifting to the rear of the schoolhouse, again and again, to sear his
eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could not help it.
And it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that Becky Thatcher never once
suspected that he was even in the land of the living.
But she did see, nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and
was glad to see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable.
Tom hinted at things he had to attend to; things that must be done; and time was
fleeting. But in vain--the girl chirped on.
Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever going to get rid of her?"
At last he must be attending to those things--and she said artlessly that she
would be "around" when school let out.
And he hastened away, hating her for it. "Any other boy!"
Tom thought, grating his teeth.
"Any boy in the whole town but that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so
fine and is aristocracy!
Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw this town, mister, and I'll
lick you again! You just wait till I catch you out!
I'll just take and--"
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy --pummelling
the air, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you?
You holler 'nough, do you?
Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the imaginary flogging was finished
to his satisfaction. Tom fled home at noon.
His conscience could not endure any more of Amy's grateful happiness, and his
jealousy could bear no more of the other distress.
Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the minutes dragged along
and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to cloud and she lost interest;
gravity and absent-mindedness followed,
and then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear at a footstep, but
it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she grew entirely miserable and
wished she hadn't carried it so far.
When poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept
exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!"
she lost patience at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me!
I don't care for them!" and burst into tears, and got up and
walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she said:
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done--for she had said she would look
at pictures all through the nooning--and she walked on, crying.
Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse.
He was humiliated and angry.
He easily guessed his way to the truth-- the girl had simply made a convenience of
him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer. He was far from hating Tom the less when
this thought occurred to him.
He wished there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much risk to
himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his eye.
Here was his opportunity.
He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act, and moved on,
without discovering herself.
She started homeward, now, intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be
thankful and their troubles would be healed.
Before she was half way home, however, she had changed her mind.
The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was talking about her picnic came
scorching back and filled her with shame.
She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling-book's account, and to
hate him forever, into the bargain.
>
Chapter XIX TOM arrived at home in a dreary mood, and
the first thing his aunt said to him showed him that he had brought his sorrows
to an unpromising market:
"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!" "Auntie, what have I done?"
"Well, you've done enough.
Here I go over to Sereny Harper, like an old softy, expecting I'm going to make her
believe all that rubbage about that dream, when lo and behold you she'd found out
from Joe that you was over here and heard all the talk we had that night.
Tom, I don't know what is to become of a boy that will act like that.
It makes me feel so bad to think you could let me go to Sereny Harper and make such a
fool of myself and never say a word." This was a new aspect of the thing.
His smartness of the morning had seemed to Tom a good joke before, and very
ingenious. It merely looked mean and shabby now.
He hung his head and could not think of anything to say for a moment.
Then he said: "Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it--but I
didn't think."
"Oh, child, you never think. You never think of anything but your own
selfishness.
You could think to come all the way over here from Jackson's Island in the night to
laugh at our troubles, and you could think to fool me with a lie about a dream; but
you couldn't ever think to pity us and save us from sorrow."
"Auntie, I know now it was mean, but I didn't mean to be mean.
I didn't, honest.
And besides, I didn't come over here to laugh at you that night."
"What did you come for, then?" "It was to tell you not to be uneasy about
us, because we hadn't got drownded."
"Tom, Tom, I would be the thankfullest soul in this world if I could believe you
ever had as good a thought as that, but you know you never did--and I know it,
Tom."
"Indeed and 'deed I did, auntie--I wish I may never stir if I didn't."
"Oh, Tom, don't lie--don't do it. It only makes things a hundred times
worse."
"It ain't a lie, auntie; it's the truth. I wanted to keep you from grieving--that
was all that made me come." "I'd give the whole world to believe that-
-it would cover up a power of sins, Tom.
I'd 'most be glad you'd run off and acted so bad.
But it ain't reasonable; because, why didn't you tell me, child?"
"Why, you see, when you got to talking about the funeral, I just got all full of
the idea of our coming and hiding in the church, and I couldn't somehow bear to
spoil it.
So I just put the bark back in my pocket and kept mum."
"What bark?" "The bark I had wrote on to tell you we'd
gone pirating.
I wish, now, you'd waked up when I kissed you--I do, honest."
The hard lines in his aunt's face relaxed and a sudden tenderness dawned in her
eyes.
"DID you kiss me, Tom?" "Why, yes, I did."
"Are you sure you did, Tom?" "Why, yes, I did, auntie--certain sure."
"What did you kiss me for, Tom?"
"Because I loved you so, and you laid there moaning and I was so sorry."
The words sounded like truth. The old lady could not hide a tremor in
her voice when she said:
"Kiss me again, Tom!--and be off with you to school, now, and don't bother me any
more."
The moment he was gone, she ran to a closet and got out the ruin of a jacket
which Tom had gone pirating in. Then she stopped, with it in her hand, and
said to herself:
"No, I don't dare. Poor boy, I reckon he's lied about it--but
it's a blessed, blessed lie, there's such a comfort come from it.
I hope the Lord--I KNOW the Lord will forgive him, because it was such
goodheartedness in him to tell it. But I don't want to find out it's a lie.
I won't look."
She put the jacket away, and stood by musing a minute.
Twice she put out her hand to take the garment again, and twice she refrained.
Once more she ventured, and this time she fortified herself with the thought: "It's
a good lie--it's a good lie--I won't let it grieve me."
So she sought the jacket pocket.
A moment later she was reading Tom's piece of bark through flowing tears and saying:
"I could forgive the boy, now, if he'd committed a million sins!"
>
Chapter XX THERE was something about Aunt Polly's
manner, when she kissed Tom, that swept away his low spirits and made him
lighthearted and happy again.
He started to school and had the luck of coming upon Becky Thatcher at the head of
Meadow Lane. His mood always determined his manner.
Without a moment's hesitation he ran to her and said:
"I acted mighty mean to-day, Becky, and I'm so sorry.
I won't ever, ever do that way again, as long as ever I live--please make up, won't
you?" The girl stopped and looked him scornfully
in the face:
"I'll thank you to keep yourself TO yourself, Mr. Thomas Sawyer.
I'll never speak to you again." She tossed her head and passed on.
Tom was so stunned that he had not even presence of mind enough to say "Who cares,
Miss Smarty?" until the right time to say it had gone
by.
So he said nothing. But he was in a fine rage, nevertheless.
He moped into the schoolyard wishing she were a boy, and imagining how he would
trounce her if she were.
He presently encountered her and delivered a stinging remark as he passed.
She hurled one in return, and the angry breach was complete.
It seemed to Becky, in her hot resentment, that she could hardly wait for school to
"take in," she was so impatient to see Tom flogged for the injured spelling-book.
If she had had any lingering notion of exposing Alfred Temple, Tom's offensive
fling had driven it entirely away. Poor girl, she did not know how fast she
was nearing trouble herself.
The master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached middle age with an unsatisfied ambition.
The darling of his desires was, to be a doctor, but poverty had decreed that he
should be nothing higher than a village schoolmaster.
Every day he took a mysterious book out of his desk and absorbed himself in it at
times when no classes were reciting. He kept that book under lock and key.
There was not an urchin in school but was perishing to have a glimpse of it, but the
chance never came.
Every boy and girl had a theory about the nature of that book; but no two theories
were alike, and there was no way of getting at the facts in the case.
Now, as Becky was passing by the desk, which stood near the door, she noticed
that the key was in the lock! It was a precious moment.
She glanced around; found herself alone, and the next instant she had the book in
her hands.
The title-page--Professor Somebody's ANATOMY--carried no information to her
mind; so she began to turn the leaves.
She came at once upon a handsomely engraved and colored frontispiece--a human
figure, stark naked.
At that moment a shadow fell on the page and Tom Sawyer stepped in at the door and
caught a glimpse of the picture.
Becky snatched at the book to close it, and had the hard luck to tear the pictured
page half down the middle.
She thrust the volume into the desk, turned the key, and burst out crying with
shame and vexation.
"Tom Sawyer, you are just as mean as you can be, to sneak up on a person and look
at what they're looking at." "How could I know you was looking at
anything?"
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Tom Sawyer; you know you're going to tell on
me, and oh, what shall I do, what shall I do!
I'll be whipped, and I never was whipped in school."
Then she stamped her little foot and said: "BE so mean if you want to!
I know something that's going to happen.
You just wait and you'll see! Hateful, hateful, hateful!"--and she flung
out of the house with a new explosion of crying.
Tom stood still, rather flustered by this onslaught.
Presently he said to himself: "What a curious kind of a fool a girl is!
Never been licked in school!
Shucks! What's a licking!
That's just like a girl--they're so thin- skinned and chicken-hearted.
Well, of course I ain't going to tell old Dobbins on this little fool, because
there's other ways of getting even on her, that ain't so mean; but what of it?
Old Dobbins will ask who it was tore his book.
Nobody'll answer.
Then he'll do just the way he always does- -ask first one and then t'other, and when
he comes to the right girl he'll know it, without any telling.
Girls' faces always tell on them.
They ain't got any backbone. She'll get licked.
Well, it's a kind of a tight place for Becky Thatcher, because there ain't any
way out of it."
Tom conned the thing a moment longer, and then added: "All right, though; she'd like
to see me in just such a fix--let her sweat it out!"
Tom joined the mob of skylarking scholars outside.
In a few moments the master arrived and school "took in."
Tom did not feel a strong interest in his studies.
Every time he stole a glance at the girls' side of the room Becky's face troubled
him.
Considering all things, he did not want to pity her, and yet it was all he could do
to help it. He could get up no exultation that was
really worthy the name.
Presently the spelling-book discovery was made, and Tom's mind was entirely full of
his own matters for a while after that.
Becky roused up from her lethargy of distress and showed good interest in the
proceedings.
She did not expect that Tom could get out of his trouble by denying that he spilt
the ink on the book himself; and she was right.
The denial only seemed to make the thing worse for Tom.
Becky supposed she would be glad of that, and she tried to believe she was glad of
it, but she found she was not certain.
When the worst came to the worst, she had an impulse to get up and tell on Alfred
Temple, but she made an effort and forced herself to keep still--because, said she
to herself, "he'll tell about me tearing the picture sure.
I wouldn't say a word, not to save his life!"
Tom took his whipping and went back to his seat not at all broken-hearted, for he
thought it was possible that he had unknowingly upset the ink on the spelling-
book himself, in some skylarking bout--he
had denied it for form's sake and because it was custom, and had stuck to the denial
from principle.
A whole hour drifted by, the master sat nodding in his throne, the air was drowsy
with the hum of study.
By and by, Mr. Dobbins straightened himself up, yawned, then unlocked his
desk, and reached for his book, but seemed undecided whether to take it out or leave
it.
Most of the pupils glanced up languidly, but there were two among them that watched
his movements with intent eyes.
Mr. Dobbins fingered his book absently for a while, then took it out and settled
himself in his chair to read! Tom shot a glance at Becky.
He had seen a hunted and helpless rabbit look as she did, with a gun levelled at
its head. Instantly he forgot his quarrel with her.
Quick--something must be done!
done in a flash, too! But the very imminence of the emergency
paralyzed his invention. Good!--he had an inspiration!
He would run and snatch the book, spring through the door and fly.
But his resolution shook for one little instant, and the chance was lost--the
master opened the volume.
If Tom only had the wasted opportunity back again!
Too late. There was no help for Becky now, he said.
The next moment the master faced the school.
Every eye sank under his gaze. There was that in it which smote even the
innocent with fear.
There was silence while one might count ten --the master was gathering his wrath.
Then he spoke: "Who tore this book?" There was not a sound.
One could have heard a pin drop.
The stillness continued; the master searched face after face for signs of
guilt. "Benjamin Rogers, did you tear this book?"
A denial.
Another pause. "Joseph Harper, did you?"
Another denial.
Tom's uneasiness grew more and more intense under the slow torture of these
proceedings.
The master scanned the ranks of boys-- considered a while, then turned to the
girls: "Amy Lawrence?"
A shake of the head.
"Gracie Miller?" The same sign.
"Susan Harper, did you do this?" Another negative.
The next girl was Becky Thatcher.
Tom was trembling from head to foot with excitement and a sense of the hopelessness
of the situation.
"Rebecca Thatcher" [Tom glanced at her face--it was white with terror] --"did you
tear--no, look me in the face" [her hands rose in appeal] --"did you tear this
book?"
A thought shot like lightning through Tom's brain.
He sprang to his feet and shouted--"I done it!"
The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly.
Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped
forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration
that shone upon him out of poor Becky's
eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings.
Inspired by the splendor of his own act, he took without an outcry the most
merciless flaying that even Mr. Dobbins had ever administered; and also received
with indifference the added cruelty of a
command to remain two hours after school should be dismissed--for he knew who would
wait for him outside till his captivity was done, and not count the tedious time
as loss, either.
Tom went to bed that night planning vengeance against Alfred Temple; for with
shame and repentance Becky had told him all, not forgetting her own treachery; but
even the longing for vengeance had to give
way, soon, to pleasanter musings, and he fell asleep at last with Becky's latest
words lingering dreamily in his ear-- "Tom, how COULD you be so noble!"
>
Chapter XXI VACATION was approaching.
The schoolmaster, always severe, grew severer and more exacting than ever, for
he wanted the school to make a good showing on "Examination" day.
His rod and his ferule were seldom idle now--at least among the smaller pupils.
Only the biggest boys, and young ladies of eighteen and twenty, escaped lashing.
Mr. Dobbins' lashings were very vigorous ones, too; for although he carried, under
his wig, a perfectly bald and shiny head, he had only reached middle age, and there
was no sign of feebleness in his muscle.
As the great day approached, all the tyranny that was in him came to the
surface; he seemed to take a vindictive pleasure in punishing the least
shortcomings.
The consequence was, that the smaller boys spent their days in terror and suffering
and their nights in plotting revenge. They threw away no opportunity to do the
master a mischief.
But he kept ahead all the time. The retribution that followed every
vengeful success was so sweeping and majestic that the boys always retired from
the field badly worsted.
At last they conspired together and hit upon a plan that promised a dazzling
victory. They swore in the sign-painter's boy, told
him the scheme, and asked his help.
He had his own reasons for being delighted, for the master boarded in his
father's family and had given the boy ample cause to hate him.
The master's wife would go on a visit to the country in a few days, and there would
be nothing to interfere with the plan; the master always prepared himself for great
occasions by getting pretty well fuddled,
and the sign-painter's boy said that when the dominie had reached the proper
condition on Examination Evening he would "manage the thing" while he napped in his
chair; then he would have him awakened at the right time and hurried away to school.
In the fulness of time the interesting occasion arrived.
At eight in the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with
wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers.
The master sat throned in his great chair upon a raised platform, with his
blackboard behind him. He was looking tolerably mellow.
Three rows of benches on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by the
dignitaries of the town and by the parents of the pupils.
To his left, back of the rows of citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon
which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening;
rows of small boys, washed and dressed to
an intolerable state of discomfort; rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and
young ladies clad in lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare
arms, their grandmothers' ancient
trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair.
All the rest of the house was filled with non-participating scholars.
The exercises began.
A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my
age to speak in public on the stage," etc.--accompanying himself with the
painfully exact and spasmodic gestures
which a machine might have used--supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order.
But he got through safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause
when he made his manufactured bow and retired.
A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., performed a
compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed and
happy.
Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the
unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, with
fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it.
A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to
choke.
True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house but he had the house's silence, too,
which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the
disaster.
Tom struggled awhile and then retired, utterly defeated.
There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.
"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came Down,"
and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises, and a
spelling fight.
The meagre Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of the evening was in
order, now--original "compositions" by the young ladies.
Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat,
held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with
labored attention to "expression" and punctuation.
The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by
their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their
ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades.
"Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream
Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and
Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.
A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy;
another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language"; another was a tendency to
lug in by the ears particularly prized
words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that
conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that
wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them.
No matter what the subject might be, a brain-racking effort was made to squirm it
into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with
edification.
The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the
banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient to-day;
it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps.
There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to
close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the
most frivolous and the least religious
girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious.
But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.
Let us return to the "Examination."
The first composition that was read was one entitled "Is this, then, Life?"
Perhaps the reader can endure an extract from it:
"In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind
look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity!
Imagination is busy sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy.
In fancy, the voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, 'the
observed of all observers.' Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling
through the mazes of the joyous dance; her
eye is brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly.
"In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour arrives
for her entrance into the Elysian world, of which she has had such bright dreams.
How fairy-like does everything appear to her enchanted vision!
Each new scene is more charming than the last.
But after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity, the
flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates harshly upon her ear; the ball-room
has lost its charms; and with wasted
health and imbittered heart, she turns away with the conviction that earthly
pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"
And so forth and so on.
There was a buzz of gratification from time to time during the reading,
accompanied by whispered ejaculations of "How sweet!"
"How eloquent!"
"So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed with
a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.
Then arose a slim, melancholy girl, whose face had the "interesting" paleness that
comes of pills and indigestion, and read a "poem."
Two stanzas of it will do:
"A MISSOURI MAIDEN'S FAREWELL TO ALABAMA "Alabama, good-bye!
I love thee well! But yet for a while do I leave thee now!
Sad, yes, sad thoughts of thee my heart doth swell, And burning recollections
throng my brow!
For I have wandered through thy flowery woods; Have roamed and read near
Tallapoosa's stream; Have listened to Tallassee's warring floods, And wooed on
Coosa's side Aurora's beam.
"Yet shame I not to bear an o'er-full heart, Nor blush to turn behind my tearful
eyes; 'Tis from no stranger land I now must part, 'Tis to no strangers left I
yield these sighs.
Welcome and home were mine within this State, Whose vales I leave--whose spires
fade fast from me And cold must be mine eyes, and heart, and tete, When, dear
Alabama!
they turn cold on thee!" There were very few there who knew what
"tete" meant, but the poem was very satisfactory, nevertheless.
Next appeared a dark-complexioned, black- eyed, black-haired young lady, who paused
an impressive moment, assumed a tragic expression, and began to read in a
measured, solemn tone:
"A VISION "Dark and tempestuous was night.
Around the throne on high not a single star quivered; but the deep intonations of
the heavy thunder constantly vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning
revelled in angry mood through the cloudy
chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power exerted over its terror by the
illustrious Franklin!
Even the boisterous winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and
blustered about as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
"At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit sighed; but
instead thereof,
"'My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter and guide--My joy in grief, my
second bliss in joy,' came to my side.
She moved like one of those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks of fancy's
Eden by the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned save by her own
transcendent loveliness.
So soft was her step, it failed to make even a sound, and but for the magical
thrill imparted by her genial touch, as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have
glided away un-perceived--unsought.
A strange sadness rested upon her features, like icy tears upon the robe of
December, as she pointed to the contending elements without, and bade me contemplate
the two beings presented."
This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with a sermon so
destructive of all hope to non- Presbyterians that it took the first
prize.
This composition was considered to be the very finest effort of the evening.
The mayor of the village, in delivering the prize to the author of it, made a warm
speech in which he said that it was by far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever
listened to, and that Daniel Webster himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in which the word
"beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience referred to as "life's page,"
was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair aside, turned
his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of America on the blackboard,
to exercise the geography class upon.
But he made a sad business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered titter
rippled over the house. He knew what the matter was, and set
himself to right it.
He sponged out lines and remade them; but he only distorted them more than ever, and
the tittering was more pronounced.
He threw his entire attention upon his work, now, as if determined not to be put
down by the mirth.
He felt that all eyes were fastened upon him; he imagined he was succeeding, and
yet the tittering continued; it even manifestly increased.
And well it might.
There was a garret above, pierced with a scuttle over his head; and down through
this scuttle came a cat, suspended around the haunches by a string; she had a rag
tied about her head and jaws to keep her
from mewing; as she slowly descended she curved upward and clawed at the string,
she swung downward and clawed at the intangible air.
The tittering rose higher and higher--the cat was within six inches of the absorbed
teacher's head--down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with her
desperate claws, clung to it, and was
snatched up into the garret in an instant with her trophy still in her possession!
And how the light did blaze abroad from the master's bald pate--for the sign-
painter's boy had GILDED it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged.
Vacation had come.
NOTE:--The pretended "compositions" quoted in this chapter are taken without
alteration from a volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a Western Lady"--but they
are exactly and precisely after the
schoolgirl pattern, and hence are much happier than any mere imitations could be.
>
Chapter XXII TOM joined the new order of Cadets of
Temperance, being attracted by the showy character of their "regalia."
He promised to abstain from smoking, chewing, and profanity as long as he
remained a member.
Now he found out a new thing--namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest
way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.
Tom soon found himself tormented with a desire to drink and swear; the desire grew
to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a chance to display himself in his red
sash kept him from withdrawing from the order.
Fourth of July was coming; but he soon gave that up --gave it up before he had
worn his shackles over forty-eight hours-- and fixed his hopes upon old Judge Frazer,
justice of the peace, who was apparently
on his deathbed and would have a big public funeral, since he was so high an
official.
During three days Tom was deeply concerned about the Judge's condition and hungry for
news of it.
Sometimes his hopes ran high--so high that he would venture to get out his regalia
and practise before the looking-glass. But the Judge had a most discouraging way
of fluctuating.
At last he was pronounced upon the mend-- and then convalescent.
Tom was disgusted; and felt a sense of injury, too.
He handed in his resignation at once--and that night the Judge suffered a relapse
and died. Tom resolved that he would never trust a
man like that again.
The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated
to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however --there
was something in that.
He could drink and swear, now--but found to his surprise that he did not want to.
The simple fact that he could, took the desire away, and the charm of it.
Tom presently wondered to find that his coveted vacation was beginning to hang a
little heavily on his hands. He attempted a diary--but nothing happened
during three days, and so he abandoned it.
The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a sensation.
Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were happy for two days.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained hard, there was
no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in the world (as Tom
supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United
States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment--for he was not twenty-five
feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
A circus came.
The boys played circus for three days afterward in tents made of rag carpeting--
admission, three pins for boys, two for girls--and then circusing was abandoned.
A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came--and went again and left the village duller and
drearier than ever.
There were some boys-and-girls' parties, but they were so few and so delightful
that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her
parents during vacation--so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery.
It was a very cancer for permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its happenings.
He was very ill, he was interested in nothing.
When he got upon his feet at last and moved feebly down-town, a melancholy
change had come over everything and every creature.
There had been a "revival," and everybody had "got religion," not only the adults,
but even the boys and girls.
Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed sinful face, but
disappointment crossed him everywhere.
He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing
spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him
visiting the poor with a basket of tracts.
He hunted up Jim Hollis, who called his attention to the precious blessing of his
late measles as a warning.
Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in
desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was
received with a Scriptural quotation, his
heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town
was lost, forever and forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful claps of
thunder and blinding sheets of lightning.
He covered his head with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his
doom; for he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him.
He believed he had taxed the forbearance of the powers above to the extremity of
endurance and that this was the result.
It might have seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a
battery of artillery, but there seemed nothing incongruous about the getting up
such an expensive thunderstorm as this to
knock the turf from under an insect like himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its object.
The boy's first impulse was to be grateful, and reform.
His second was to wait--for there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed.
The three weeks he spent on his back this time seemed an entire age.
When he got abroad at last he was hardly grateful that he had been spared,
remembering how lonely was his estate, how companionless and forlorn he was.
He drifted listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a
juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her victim, a
bird.
He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a stolen melon.
Poor lads! they--like Tom--had suffered a relapse.
>
Chapter XXIII AT last the sleepy atmosphere was stirred-
-and vigorously: the murder trial came on in the court.
It became the absorbing topic of village talk immediately.
Tom could not get away from it.
Every reference to the murder sent a shudder to his heart, for his troubled
conscience and fears almost persuaded him that these remarks were put forth in his
hearing as "feelers"; he did not see how
he could be suspected of knowing anything about the murder, but still he could not
be comfortable in the midst of this gossip.
It kept him in a cold shiver all the time.
He took Huck to a lonely place to have a talk with him.
It would be some relief to unseal his tongue for a little while; to divide his
burden of distress with another sufferer.
Moreover, he wanted to assure himself that Huck had remained discreet.
"Huck, have you ever told anybody about-- that?"
"'Bout what?"
"You know what." "Oh--'course I haven't."
"Never a word?" "Never a solitary word, so help me.
What makes you ask?"
"Well, I was afeard." "Why, Tom Sawyer, we wouldn't be alive two
days if that got found out. YOU know that."
Tom felt more comfortable.
After a pause: "Huck, they couldn't anybody get you to
tell, could they?" "Get me to tell?
Why, if I wanted that half-breed devil to drownd me they could get me to tell.
They ain't no different way." "Well, that's all right, then.
I reckon we're safe as long as we keep mum.
But let's swear again, anyway. It's more surer."
"I'm agreed."
So they swore again with dread solemnities.
"What is the talk around, Huck? I've heard a power of it."
"Talk?
Well, it's just Muff Potter, Muff Potter, Muff Potter all the time.
It keeps me in a sweat, constant, so's I want to hide som'ers."
"That's just the same way they go on round me.
I reckon he's a goner. Don't you feel sorry for him, sometimes?"
"Most always--most always.
He ain't no account; but then he hain't ever done anything to hurt anybody.
Just fishes a little, to get money to get drunk on--and loafs around considerable;
but lord, we all do that--leastways most of us--preachers and such like.
But he's kind of good--he give me half a fish, once, when there warn't enough for
two; and lots of times he's kind of stood by me when I was out of luck."
"Well, he's mended kites for me, Huck, and knitted hooks on to my line.
I wish we could get him out of there." "My!
we couldn't get him out, Tom.
And besides, 'twouldn't do any good; they'd ketch him again."
"Yes--so they would. But I hate to hear 'em abuse him so like
the dickens when he never done--that."
"I do too, Tom. Lord, I hear 'em say he's the bloodiest
looking villain in this country, and they wonder he wasn't ever hung before."
"Yes, they talk like that, all the time.
I've heard 'em say that if he was to get free they'd lynch him."
"And they'd do it, too." The boys had a long talk, but it brought
them little comfort.
As the twilight drew on, they found themselves hanging about the neighborhood
of the little isolated jail, perhaps with an undefined hope that something would
happen that might clear away their difficulties.
But nothing happened; there seemed to be no angels or fairies interested in this
luckless captive.
The boys did as they had often done before--went to the cell grating and gave
Potter some tobacco and matches. He was on the ground floor and there were
no guards.
His gratitude for their gifts had always smote their consciences before--it cut
deeper than ever, this time. They felt cowardly and treacherous to the
last degree when Potter said:
"You've been mighty good to me, boys-- better'n anybody else in this town.
And I don't forget it, I don't.
Often I says to myself, says I, 'I used to mend all the boys' kites and things, and
show 'em where the good fishin' places was, and befriend 'em what I could, and
now they've all forgot old Muff when he's
in trouble; but Tom don't, and Huck don't- -THEY don't forget him, says I, 'and I
don't forget them.' Well, boys, I done an awful thing--drunk and crazy at the time--
that's the only way I account for it--and now I got to swing for it, and it's right.
Right, and BEST, too, I reckon--hope so, anyway.
Well, we won't talk about that.
I don't want to make YOU feel bad; you've befriended me.
But what I want to say, is, don't YOU ever get drunk--then you won't ever get here.
Stand a litter furder west--so--that's it; it's a prime comfort to see faces that's
friendly when a body's in such a muck of trouble, and there don't none come here
but yourn.
Good friendly faces--good friendly faces. Git up on one another's backs and let me
touch 'em. That's it.
Shake hands--yourn'll come through the bars, but mine's too big.
Little hands, and weak--but they've helped Muff Potter a power, and they'd help him
more if they could."
Tom went home miserable, and his dreams that night were full of horrors.
The next day and the day after, he hung about the court-room, drawn by an almost
irresistible impulse to go in, but forcing himself to stay out.
Huck was having the same experience.
They studiously avoided each other. Each wandered away, from time to time, but
the same dismal fascination always brought them back presently.
Tom kept his ears open when idlers sauntered out of the court-room, but
invariably heard distressing news--the toils were closing more and more
relentlessly around poor Potter.
At the end of the second day the village talk was to the effect that Injun Joe's
evidence stood firm and unshaken, and that there was not the slightest question as to
what the jury's verdict would be.
Tom was out late, that night, and came to bed through the window.
He was in a tremendous state of excitement.
It was hours before he got to sleep.
All the village flocked to the court-house the next morning, for this was to be the
great day. Both sexes were about equally represented
in the packed audience.
After a long wait the jury filed in and took their places; shortly afterward,
Potter, pale and haggard, timid and hopeless, was brought in, with chains upon
him, and seated where all the curious eyes
could stare at him; no less conspicuous was Injun Joe, stolid as ever.
There was another pause, and then the judge arrived and the sheriff proclaimed
the opening of the court.
The usual whisperings among the lawyers and gathering together of papers followed.
These details and accompanying delays worked up an atmosphere of preparation
that was as impressive as it was fascinating.
Now a witness was called who testified that he found Muff Potter washing in the
brook, at an early hour of the morning that the murder was discovered, and that
he immediately sneaked away.
After some further questioning, counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
The prisoner raised his eyes for a moment, but dropped them again when his own
counsel said: "I have no questions to ask him."
The next witness proved the finding of the knife near the corpse.
Counsel for the prosecution said: "Take the witness."
"I have no questions to ask him," Potter's lawyer replied.
A third witness swore he had often seen the knife in Potter's possession.
"Take the witness."
Counsel for Potter declined to question him.
The faces of the audience began to betray annoyance.
Did this attorney mean to throw away his client's life without an effort?
Several witnesses deposed concerning Potter's guilty behavior when brought to
the scene of the murder.
They were allowed to leave the stand without being cross-questioned.
Every detail of the damaging circumstances that occurred in the graveyard upon that
morning which all present remembered so well was brought out by credible
witnesses, but none of them were cross- examined by Potter's lawyer.
The perplexity and dissatisfaction of the house expressed itself in murmurs and
provoked a reproof from the bench.
Counsel for the prosecution now said:
"By the oaths of citizens whose simple word is above suspicion, we have fastened
this awful crime, beyond all possibility of question, upon the unhappy prisoner at
the bar.
We rest our case here." A groan escaped from poor Potter, and he
put his face in his hands and rocked his body softly to and fro, while a painful
silence reigned in the court-room.
Many men were moved, and many women's compassion testified itself in tears.
Counsel for the defence rose and said:
"Your honor, in our remarks at the opening of this trial, we foreshadowed our purpose
to prove that our client did this fearful deed while under the influence of a blind
and irresponsible delirium produced by drink.
We have changed our mind. We shall not offer that plea."
[Then to the clerk:] "Call Thomas Sawyer!"
A puzzled amazement awoke in every face in the house, not even excepting Potter's.
Every eye fastened itself with wondering interest upon Tom as he rose and took his
place upon the stand.
The boy looked wild enough, for he was badly scared.
The oath was administered.
"Thomas Sawyer, where were you on the seventeenth of June, about the hour of
midnight?" Tom glanced at Injun Joe's iron face and
his tongue failed him.
The audience listened breathless, but the words refused to come.
After a few moments, however, the boy got a little of his strength back, and managed
to put enough of it into his voice to make part of the house hear:
"In the graveyard!"
"A little bit louder, please. Don't be afraid.
You were--" "In the graveyard."
A contemptuous smile flitted across Injun Joe's face.
"Were you anywhere near Horse Williams' grave?"
"Yes, sir."
"Speak up--just a trifle louder. How near were you?"
"Near as I am to you." "Were you hidden, or not?"
"I was hid."
"Where?" "Behind the elms that's on the edge of the
grave." Injun Joe gave a barely perceptible start.
"Any one with you?"
"Yes, sir. I went there with--"
"Wait--wait a moment. Never mind mentioning your companion's
name.
We will produce him at the proper time. Did you carry anything there with you."
Tom hesitated and looked confused. "Speak out, my boy--don't be diffident.
The truth is always respectable.
What did you take there?" "Only a--a--dead cat."
There was a ripple of mirth, which the court checked.
"We will produce the skeleton of that cat.
Now, my boy, tell us everything that occurred--tell it in your own way--don't
skip anything, and don't be afraid."
Tom began--hesitatingly at first, but as he warmed to his subject his words flowed
more and more easily; in a little while every sound ceased but his own voice;
every eye fixed itself upon him; with
parted lips and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of
time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale.
The strain upon pent emotion reached its climax when the boy said:
"--and as the doctor fetched the board around and Muff Potter fell, Injun Joe
jumped with the knife and--"
Crash! Quick as lightning the half-breed sprang
for a window, tore his way through all opposers, and was gone!
>
Chapter XXIV TOM was a glittering hero once more--the
pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print,
for the village paper magnified him.
There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom and fondled
him as lavishly as it had abused him before.
But that sort of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find
fault with it.
Tom's days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights were
seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and
always with doom in his eye.
Hardly any temptation could persuade the boy to stir abroad after nightfall.
Poor Huck was in the same state of wretchedness and terror, for Tom had told
the whole story to the lawyer the night before the great day of the trial, and
Huck was sore afraid that his share in the
business might leak out, yet, notwithstanding Injun Joe's flight had
saved him the suffering of testifying in court.
The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of that?
Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the lawyer's house
by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been sealed with the dismalest
and most formidable of oaths, Huck's
confidence in the human race was well-nigh obliterated.
Daily Muff Potter's gratitude made Tom glad he had spoken; but nightly he wished
he had sealed up his tongue.
Half the time Tom was afraid Injun Joe would never be captured; the other half he
was afraid he would be.
He felt sure he never could draw a safe breath again until that man was dead and
he had seen the corpse. Rewards had been offered, the country had
been scoured, but no Injun Joe was found.
One of those omniscient and awe-inspiring marvels, a detective, came up from St.
Louis, moused around, shook his head, looked wise, and made that sort of
astounding success which members of that craft usually achieve.
That is to say, he "found a clew."
But you can't hang a "clew" for murder, and so after that detective had got
through and gone home, Tom felt just as insecure as he was before.
The slow days drifted on, and each left behind it a slightly lightened weight of
apprehension.
>